Everyone in this part of the country, and many others too, are looking up to ‘Gagan’ (the skies) with great expectations. Well, Gagan is indeed in the hearts and news too. With what transpired recently, it was more than apt that his parents named him Gagan.
For, the Karnataka middle and long distance swimmer got the most unexpected gift from out of the blue, a berth in the London Olympics swimming competition from none other than the Federation Internationale de Natation (FINA), the world swimming body.
Even as many hope for water to pour, Gagan A P Ullalmath, would be raring to push the waters back and forth to clock decent times and come through the heats, better his own national marks, and God willing, just as he was awarded the chance, even qualify for the semi-finals or the final in his event -- 1,500 metres freestyle.
The former BMS College student who took his BBM exams recently, Gagan’s natatorium is the Basavangudi Aquatic Centre where he learnt the art and science of swimming from National coach Pradeep Kumar.
T h e 20-year - old Bangalorean got the nod from FINA under the Universality quota ahead of four others like Virdhawal Khade, Sandeep Sejwal, Aaron D’Souza and Saurabh Sangvekar (his practice partner) who had attained the Olympic Selection Time (OST, B qualifying mark).
“National Federations or olympic committees with no swimmers who have achieved either the Standard Entry Time may enter one man and one woman (Universality) provided that those swimmers participated in the 14th FINA World Championships -- Shanghai 2011 and are approved by FINA to compete.”
That’s the rule or the option that got Gagan the London callup.Gagan had participated in the 800 metres freestyle event at the Shanghai world meet and had set a national record of 8:21.90 secs in Shanghai. His entry in London is for the 1,500 metres in which his best time is 15:59.33 secs.
“Yes, Gagan will be doing the 1,500 in London after the 800 in Shanghai. But then the long distance event is his pet trip and he has done well in that event in the past. But yes, the Olympics are a different proposition,” said Pradeep Kumar.
“Gagan has been chosen ahead of others who had the OST mark. But he does deserve an Olympic berth for he is a good swimmer. Gagan has swum enough meets for India in the international arena and is not exactly raw. In fact, he is the only Indian swimmer who attained the qualifying mark for the 1,500 metres for the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in 2010,” Pradeep pointed out.
“It was a surprise for me as I never expected it. After two months of preparing for my BBM exams, I hit the water on Friday. It is an honour for me to participate in the Olympics and represent my country. My immediate goal is to train harder for the London Games and after that, work even harder and aim for the 2016 Games in Rio,” said Gagan, who has very little time left for preparations.
Gagan won medals in the many Asian Age Group competitions.He also made it to the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore in 2009 apart from the CWG showing and the World meet.
Gagan set the pool during the 2011 National Games in Jharkhand on fire winning no less than six gold medals for Karnataka.
The versatile swimmer, endowed with loads of stamina, won the 400, 800, 1,500 and 400 metres individual medley and anchored Karnataka to two relay golds.
In 2009, he was voted as the ‘best swimmer’ in the National junior swimming meet in Jaipur where he won five individual golds (200, 400, 800, 1500 and 200 m individual medley) setting three National records and also winning two relay golds.
Gagan’s sisters, Kavya and Tejaswini, are also swimmers of repute and as such the family is delighted that Gagan has come through the ranks and will be representing the country in the Olympics now.
A few weeks ago, City Express’ Star of the Week, Vishnu Vardhan got a nod to partner Leander Paes in London in the tennis doubles event.
Now an Olympian-to-be is, indeed, the Star of the Week and the nation.